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Scientists Finding Major Mutations in Gulf Seafood

Shrimp boats in Biloxi, MS.
Shrimp boats in Biloxi, MS.
Photo: flickr / pulaw

It was already clear that life in the Gulf of Mexico post-BP oil spill is "a little bit out of kilter," but in case more terrifying proof was needed, apparently that out-of-kilter-ness includes major amounts of mutation. Like, borderline Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-esque mutations:

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera she is finding crabs "with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within ? they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they've been dead for a week".

She also reports fining "eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills," and "eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills." Scientists' studies are finding that these mutations are occurring in significantly greater number in the post-oil spill Gulf.

The official response from the State of Louisiana is that the seafood that's making it onto people's plates is testing "lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the levels of oil and dispersant contamination that would pose a risk to human health." But the clear connection between the spill and these mutations?as well as connections between the spill and killfish and plankton?is making scientists say things like this: "I'm worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out." Hopefully that particular scientist is wrong, but all of this is really terrifying.

Update: The TImes-Pic responds, calling the Al-Jazeera piece "National Enquirer-esque" and discussing the seafood industry's battle against negative perception. And the AP adds more anecdotes about sick fish near the spill site.

· Fulf Seafood Abnormalities Alarm Scientists [Al-Jazeera]
· All BP Oil Spill Coverage on Eater NOLA [-ENOLA-]